Want to know why patients take their frustrations online and leave negative reviews?

We sifted through 2,309 online reviews from different dental practices all across the UK to find what was causing patients to leave negative reviews online… We found 4 common issues – which we’ll go through in a moment – but before that, here’s a bit of background about the practices we checked…

In almost every case, each practice tended to have mostly positive reviews (typically 5 stars) with a small number of 1 or 2 star ratings that dragged the overall Google average review down.

The poor ratings (1 and 2-stars) tended to come in 2 forms:

1. An anonymous review without any explanation or details (these account for a relatively small number of complaints)

2. A detailed explanation of the cause for the complaint (the majority of cases) where the reviewer also used their name

We took these detailed complaints and compiled them into a 24-page document and then classified them into groups based on the general theme of the review. It soon became apparent that the complaints centred around 4 main themes: treatment, scheduling, financial and customer services issues.

As you read through the complaint examples below, you’ll probably have some ideas that you can use as guidelines for improving your own patient experience and avoiding negative reviews.

We’ve suggested some sample strategies and policies you can adopt to avoid complaints on page 10 of the Dental Practice Growth E-Magazine which you can download here…


These complaints centred on a lack of satisfaction with the results of dental treatment.

Examples included:

* Broken dental prosthetics

* Work needing to be repeated because the initial treatment failed to solve the problem

* Teeth straightening treatments that didn’t work

* “Bodged” extractions and fillings

* Misdiagnosis that was later pointed out by other dentists

* “Half-hearted” work such as cursory teeth cleanings, X-rays that didn’t capture the area that the patient was complaining about (e.g. wisdom teeth) and recommendations for unnecessary treatment (often pointed out when the patient sought a second opinion.)


Complaints about scheduling tended to centre on the difficulty in getting appointments at busy practices (especially NHS) but also included instances where patients were:

* Kept waiting for an unreasonable amount of time for their appointment

* Asked to cancel their appointment by the practice (especially when there was no later contact to book a replacement appointment)

* Asked to wait (from several days to 1 week) for emergency appointments when the patient was in extreme pain

* Required to see only the same dentist who had no availability when the patient could come in


Our last category of complaints revolved around what could be described as “customer service issues,” or perhaps “poor customer experience.”

The majority of these complaints involved patients feeling that they were treated rudely. Interestingly, 13% of patients who complained about something in one of the other categories then complained about rude customer service when staff reacted negatively to their initial complaint (about poor treatment results, etc.)

Complaints about reception staff made up 70% of these cases, but dentists also featured prominently in complaints about rudeness (30%).

Notable examples of rudeness by reception staff included patients being told “I will deal with you when I am ready” and “you can move your jaw because you’re talking to me.”

One patient complained about being shouted at by the dentist and kicked out of the practice during treatment.

We also categorised the following complaints under customer service issues:

* Patients feeling their concerns were ignored or brushed aside

* Being kept waiting 30 days for x-rays to show to their doctor

* Staff on breaks chatting and joking loudly near to patients

* Being sent too many promotional emails by the practice


Financial issues were the largest cause of complaints and tended to revolve around prices that the patient felt were unreasonable.

However, a significant number of complaints in this category also included:

* In-practice prices being different to those advertised on the website

* Being quoted several different prices for the same treatment

* The price increasing after the treatment was completed

* Being recommended more expensive treatments instead of simpler, more cost-effective ones

* “Hidden extras” that weren’t initially explained but added later (e.g. X-rays in initial appointments)

* Being pushed to go for private treatment

* Being “hard sold” on treatments like Invisalign and facial aesthetics


The overhwelming majority of complaints that patients post online occur because of issues in the four areas mentioned above. Yet with some simple policies and training, it’s possible to dramatically reduce the chances of your practice being featured in a negative review online.

We’ve provided some specific tips and strategies you can implement in your practice to avoid patient complaints in these four areas in the follow-up article to this study which you can find on page 10 of the Dental Practice Growth E-Magazine. You can download your copy here.


You may also find the following articles of interest:

Patient Feedback: the Key to a Successful Practice – by Lisa Bainham, president of the Association of Dental Administrators and Managers (ADAM)

Read this: Lorem ipsum dolor article

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